Tongariro Alpine Crossing #legday


Today turned out to be pretty awesome. Now that it’s over, I can say that I was definitely nervous yesterday about doing this hike. The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is considered one of the best one-day hikes in the world, and it’s really popular with tourists visiting New Zealand. Since so many people do it, I guess we just didn’t figure it would be too intense, so Sarah and I were kind of chill about the whole thing. But when we arrived at our hostel and talked to the guy about doing the hike, he told us there would be lots of snow at the top, with winds up to 40km per hour and below-freezing temperatures. Luckily, we were able to borrow gloves and I was able to borrow snow pants, but I think both of us were still pretty anxious about it last night.

We had a bit of a rough start this morning, because we had to get up at 5am to get ready for the hike, and I slept terribly last night. But we managed to make our lunches and drive to the carpark at the end of the trail, where a shuttle would pick us up to drive us to the beginning of the trail.

The beginning was freezing and super windy, and I think we were both wondering what we’d gotten ourselves into, but soon we both relaxed and started enjoying ourselves. There was a bit of a climb up a bunch of stairs towards the beginning, but then we found ourselves surrounded by snow and mountains, and it was just beautiful!




Then we reached the tough part of the trail, which involved a steep climb up a mountain through the snow, but although it was exhausting and a little slippery and treacherous at times, it wasn’t nearly as bad as either of us were expecting. And the views were amazing the whole way up, of course.



After finally reaching the summit, we could see the Emerald Lakes (pictured at the top), which are just as pretty as they sound. It was also really neat because the ground was warm and steaming, and it smelled very…geothermal. It’s hard to describe what it felt like being up there, and I guess it’s something you just have to experience, but it was amazing to find myself in the middle of such a unique landscape that I had to hike for hours to get to.


Hiking down the summit to the lakes was interesting. The trail was a slippery combination of muddy volcanic ash and snow, and Sarah and I ended up sliding down a considerable distance on our butts. It would’ve been really fun, if I hadn’t also been slightly terrified that I wouldn’t be able to stop and would plunge over the edge and down a rocky cliff. But it was definitely still a little fun.


We stopped and ate lunch at the bottom right next to one of the Emerald Lakes, appreciating the fact that we’d made it through the hardest part of the hike. There were a couple other tiring climbs after that, but nothing like what we had already passed, and the rest of the way was mostly easy(ish) trail with beautiful scenery.




But those climbs and all those stairs had been a serious leg workout, and I was definitely wobbly by the time we got back to the car! I think we’re gonna be sore tomorrow.

The whole hike took us almost exactly 7 hours, which we were pretty happy with. And even though we were nervous yesterday and this morning was rough, we’re both so glad we decided to do the crossing! Pictures really don’t do it justice, and the feeling of accomplishment you get after hiking 20km over rough alpine terrain is pretty great.

And I think we were both pleasantly surprised with the mood of the hike. We were expecting it to be really intense at times, and maybe even a little nerve-wracking or just unpleasant, but it ended up being really chill and enjoyable pretty much the entire time. There were lots of people on the trail, so at times we were all walking in a long line, but that actually made the tricky parts a little more comforting. And there were lots of groups stopping to have snowball fights or make snowmen or otherwise just play around.

Of course, it helped that we got insanely lucky with the weather; it was sunny with just a few clouds, and it wasn’t even that windy. We talked to some people who hiked it yesterday, and apparently it was snowing and freezing and really windy the whole time. I can definitely see how the trail would be scary and dangerous and unpleasant in that kind of weather, so I’m just so thankful that we caught it on a good day. And even though we were super disappointed that the weather prevented us from doing our glacier heli-hike a few days ago, Sarah and I both said that given the choice, we’d much rather have been able to hike the Tongrariro Crossing, so we’re happy with how things worked out. And the Crossing was free (aside from the $25 shuttle and my $5 rented snow pants), and the glacier hike would’ve been around $300. So I think it all worked out okay!

Anyway, I’m really happy with how today went, but now I’m thoroughly exhausted and pretty much hurt everywhere. Hopefully I’ll be able to get out of bed tomorrow, because we only have three more days left in NZ, and they’re going to be busy!


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